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Harry Potter and the Psychology of Prejudice
"You've had lessons on how to manipulate people?"
"Of course," Draco said proudly. "I'm a Malfoy. Father bought me tutors."
"Wow," Harry said. “The way Lucius looks at you, I thought he was going to crucify you."
"My father really loves me," Draco said firmly. "He wouldn't ever do that."
"Um..." Harry said. He remembered the blackrobed, whitehaired figure of elegance wielding
that beautiful, deadly silverhandled cane. It wasn't easy to visualise him as a doting father.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but how do you
"Huh?" It was clear that this was a question Draco did not commonly ask himself.
“What makes you think Lucius wouldn't sacrifice you the same way he'd sacrifice anything else
Draco shot Harry another odd look. "Just what do
you know about Father?"
"Um... seat on the Wizengamot, seat on Hogwarts' Board of Governors, incredibly wealthy, has
the ear of Minister Fudge, has the confidence of Minister Fudge, probably has some highly
embarrassing photos of Minister Fudge, most prominent blood purist now that the Dark Lord's
gone, former Death Eater who was found to have the Dark Mark but got off by claiming to be
under the Imperius Curse, which was ridiculously implausible and pretty much everyone knew
it... evil with a capital 'E' and a born killer... I think that's it."
Draco's eyes had narrowed to slits. "McGonagall told you that, did she."
"No, she wouldn't say
anything to me about Lucius, except to stay away from him, so I grabbed a
customer at the potions shop and asked
her about Lucius."
Draco's eyes were wide again. "Did you
Harry gave Draco a puzzled look. "If I lied the first time, I'm not going to tell you the truth just
because you ask twice."
There was a certain pause as Draco absorbed this.
"You're so completely going to be in Slytherin. Anyway... to answer what you asked..." Draco
took a deep breath, and his face turned serious. "Father once missed a Wizengamot vote for me. I
was on a broom and I fell off and broke a lot of ribs. It really hurt. I'd never hurt that much
before and I thought I was going to die. So Father missed this really important vote, because he
was there by my bed at St. Mungo's, holding my hands and promising me that I was going to be
Harry glanced away uncomfortably, then, with an effort, forced himself to look back at Draco.
"Why are you telling me that? It seems sort of... private..."
Draco gave Harry a serious look. "One of my tutors once said that people form close friendships
by knowing private things about each other, and the reason most people don't make close friends
is because they're too embarrassed to share anything really important about themselves." Draco
turned his palms out invitingly. "Your turn?"
Knowing that Draco's hopeful face had probably been drilled into him by months of practice did
not make it any less effective, Harry observed. Actually it
did make it less effective, but
unfortunately not ineffective. The same could be said of Draco's clever use of reciprocation
pressure. Draco had made an unsolicited gift of a confidence, and now invited Harry to offer a
confidence in return... and the thing was, Harry
did feel pressured. Refusal, Harry was certain,
would be met with a look of sad disappointment, and maybe a small amount of contempt
indicating that Harry had lost points.
"Draco," Harry said, "just so you know, I recognise exactly what you're doing right now.”
Draco was looking sad and disappointed. "It's not meant as a trick, Harry. It's a real way of
Harry held up a hand. "I didn't say I wasn't going to respond. I just need time to pick something
that's private but just as nondamaging. Let's say... I wanted you to know that I can't be rushed
into things." A pause to reflect could go a long way in defusing the power of a lot of compliance
techniques, once you learned to recognise them for what they were.
"All right," Draco said. "I'll wait while you come up with something.”
Simple but effective.
And Harry couldn't help but notice how clumsy, awkward, graceless his attempt at resisting
manipulation / saving face / showing off had appeared compared to Draco. I need those tutors.
"All right," Harry said after a time. "Here's mine." He glanced around. "Um... it sounds like you
can really rely on your father. I mean... if you talk to him seriously, he'll always listen to you and
take you seriously."
"Sometimes," Harry said, and swallowed. This was surprisingly hard, but then it was meant to
be. "Sometimes I wish my own family was like yours." Harry's eyes flinched away from Draco's
face, more or less automatically, and then Harry forced himself to look back at Draco.
Then it hit Harry what on Earth he'd just said, and Harry hastily added, "Not that I wish my Dad
was a flawless instrument of death like Lucius, I only mean taking me seriously "
"I understand," Draco said with a smile. "There... now doesn't it feel like we're a little closer to
Harry nodded. "Yeah. It does, actually.”
"My father takes all his friends seriously," Draco said. "That's why he has lots of friends. You
should meet him."
"I'll think about it," Harry said in a neutral voice. He shook his head in wonder. "So you really
are his one weak point. Huh."
Now Draco was giving Harry a really odd look. "You want to go get something to drink and find
somewhere to sit down?"
Harry realised he had been standing in one place for too long, and stretched himself, trying to
crick his back. "Sure."
The platform was starting to fill up now, but there was still a quieter area on the far side away
from the red steam engine. Along the way they passed a stall containing a bald, bearded man
offering newspapers and comic books and stacked neongreen cans.
"'Scuse me," Harry said, "but what is that stuff, exactly?"
"ComedTea," said the stallholder. "If you drink it, something surprising is bound to happen
which makes you spill it on yourself or someone else. But it's charmed to vanish just a few
seconds later "
"How droll," said Draco. "How very, very droll. Come, Mr. Potter, let's go find another "
"Hold on," Harry said.
"Oh come on! That's just, just juvenile! "
"No, I'm sorry Draco, I have to investigate this. What happens if I drink ComedTea while doing
my best to keep the conversation completely serious?"
The stallholder smiled mysteriously. "Who knows? A friend walks by in a frog costume?
Something unexpected is bound to happen "
"No. I'm sorry. I just don't believe it. That violates my muchabused suspension of disbelief on
so many levels I don't even have the language to describe it. There is, there is just no way a
bloody drink can manipulate reality to produce comedy setups, or I'm going to give up and retire
to the Bahamas "
Draco groaned. "Are we really going to do this?"
"You don't have to drink it but I have to investigate. Have to. How much?"
"Five Knuts the can," the stallholder said.
"Five Knuts? You can sell realitymanipulating fizzy drinks for five Knuts the can?" Harry
reached into his pouch, said "four Sickles, four Knuts", and slapped them down on the counter.
"Two dozen cans please."
"I'll also take one," Draco sighed, and started to reach for his pockets.
Harry shook his head rapidly. "No, I've got this, doesn't count as a favor either, I want to see if it
works for you too." He took a can from the stack now placed on the counter and tossed it to
Draco, then started feeding his pouch. The pouch's Widening Lip ate the cans accompanied by
small burping noises.
Twentytwo burps later, Harry had the last purchased can in his hand, Draco was looking at him
expectantly, and the two of them pulled the ring at the same time.
They tilted their heads back and drank the ComedTea.
It somehow tasted bright green extrafizzy and limer than lime.
Aside from that, nothing else happened.
Harry looked at the stallholder, who was watching them benevolently.
"It doesn't always happen immediately," the stallholder said. "But it's guaranteed to happen once
per can, or your money back."
Harry took another long drink.
Once again, nothing happened.
Maybe I should just chug the whole thing as fast as possible... and hope my stomach doesn't
explode from all the carbon dioxide, or that I don't burp while drinking it...
No, he could afford to be a little patient. But honestly, Harry didn't see how this was going to
work. You couldn't go up to someone and say "Now I'm going to surprise you" or "And now I'm
going to tell you the punchline of the joke, and it'll be really funny." It ruined the shock value. In
Harry's state of mental preparedness, Lucius Malfoy could have walked past in a ballerina outfit
and it wouldn't have made him do a proper spittake. Just what sort of wacky shenanigan was the
universe supposed to cough up now?
"Anyway, let's sit down," Harry said. He prepared to swig another drink and started towards the
distant seating area, which put him at the right angle to glance back and see the portion of the
stall's newspaper stand that was devoted to a newspaper called The Quibbler, which was showing
the following headline:
DRACO MALFOY PREGNANT
"Gah! " screamed Draco as bright green liquid sprayed all over him from Harry's direction.
Draco turned to Harry with fire in his eyes and grabbed his own can. "You son of a mudblood!
Let's see how you like being spat upon!" Draco took a deliberate swig from the can just as his
own eyes caught sight of the headline.
In sheer reflex action, Harry tried to block his face as the spray of liquid flew in his direction.
Unfortunately he blocked using the hand containing the ComedTea, sending the rest of the
green liquid to splash out over his shoulder.
Harry stared at the can in his hand even as he went on choking and spluttering and the green
colour started to vanish from Draco's robes.
Then he looked up and stared at the newspaper headline.
DRACO MALFOY PREGNANT
Harry's lips opened and said, "buhbuhbuhbuh..."
Too many competing objections, that was the problem. Every time Harry tried to say "But we're
only eleven!" the objection "But men can't get pregnant!" demanded first priority and was then
run over by "But there's nothing between us, really!"
Then Harry looked down at the can in his hand again.
He was feeling a deepseated desire to run away screaming at the top of his lungs until he
dropped from lack of oxygen.
Harry snarled, threw the can violently into a nearby rubbish bin, and stalked back over to the
stall. "One copy of The Quibbler, please." Harry paid over four more Knuts, retrieved another
can of ComedTea from his pouch, and then stalked over to the picnic area with the blondhaired
boy, who was staring at his own can with an expression of frank admiration.
"I take it back," Draco said, "that was pretty good."
"Hey, Draco, you know what I bet is even better for becoming friends than exchanging secrets?
"I have a tutor who says that," Draco allowed. He reached inside his robes and scratched himself
with an easy, natural motion. "Who've you got in mind?"
Harry slammed The Quibbler down hard on the picnic table. "The guy who came up with this
Draco groaned. "Not a guy. A girl. A tenyearold girl, can you believe it? She went nuts after
her mother died and her father, who owns this newspaper, is convinced that she's a seer, so when
he doesn't know he asks Luna Lovegood and believes anything she says."
Not really thinking about it, Harry pulled the ring on his next can of ComedTea and prepared to
drink. "Are you kidding me? That's even worse than Muggle journalism, which I would have
thought was physically impossible."
Draco snarled. "She has some sort of perverse obsession about the Malfoys, too, and her father is
politically opposed to us so he prints every word. As soon as I'm old enough I'm going to rape
Green liquid spurted out of Harry's nostrils. ComedTea and lungs did not mix, and Harry spent
the next few seconds frantically coughing.
Draco looked at him sharply. "Something wrong?"
It was at this point that Harry came to the sudden realisation that (a) the sounds coming from the
rest of the train platform had turned into more of a blurred white noise at around the same time
Draco had reached inside his robes, and (b) when he had discussed committing murder as a
bonding method, there had been exactly one person in the conversation who'd thought they were
Right. Because he seemed like such a normal kid. And he is a normal kid, he is just what you'd
expect a baseline male child to be like if Darth Vader were his doting father.
"Yes, well," Harry coughed, oh god how was he going to get out of this conversational wedge, "I
was just surprised at how you were willing to discuss it so openly, you didn't seem worried about
getting caught or anything."
Draco snorted. "Are you joking? Luna Lovegood's word against mine?"
Holy crap on a holy stick. "There's no such thing as magical truth detection, I take it?" Or DNA
Draco looked around. His eyes narrowed. "That's right, you don't know anything. Look, I'll
explain things to you, I mean the way it really works, just like you were already in Slytherin and
asked me the same question. But you've got to swear not to say anything about it."
"I swear," Harry said.
"The courts use Veritaserum, but it's a joke really, you just get yourself Obliviated before you
testify and then claim the other person was MemoryCharmed with a fake memory. Of course if
you're just some normal person, the courts presume in favor of Obliviation, not False Memory
Charms. But the court has discretion, and if I'm involved then it impinges on the honor of a
Noble House, so it goes to the Wizengamot, where Father has the votes. After I'm found not
guilty the Lovegood family has to pay reparations for tarnishing my honor. And they know from
the start that's how it'll go, so they'll just keep their mouths shut."
A cold chill was coming over Harry, a chill that came with instructions to keep his voice and
face normal. Note to self: Overthrow government of magical Britain at earliest convenience.
Harry coughed again to clear his throat. "Draco, please please please don't take this the wrong
way, my word is my bond, but like you said I could be in Slytherin and I really want to ask for
informational purposes, so what would happen theoretically speaking if I did testify that I'd
heard you plan it?"
"Then if I was anyone other than a Malfoy, I'd be in trouble," Draco answered smugly. "Since I
am a Malfoy... Father has the votes. And afterwards he'd crush you... well, I guess not easily,
since you are the BoyWhoLived, but Father is pretty good at that sort of thing." Draco
frowned. "'Sides, you talked about murdering her, why weren't you worried about me testifying
after she turns up dead?"
How, oh how did my day go this wrong? Harry's mouth was already moving faster than he could
think. "That's when I thought she was older! I don't know how it works here, but in Muggle
Britain the courts would get a lot more upset about someone killing a child "
"That makes sense," Draco said, still looking a bit suspicious. "But anyway, it's always smarter if
it doesn't go to the Aurors at all. If we're careful only to do things that Healing Charms can fix,
we can just Obliviate her afterwards and then do it all again next week." Then the blondehaired
boy giggled, a youthful highpitched sound. "Though just imagine her saying she'd been done by
Draco Malfoy and the BoyWhoLived, not even Dumbledore would believe her."
I am going to tear apart your pathetic little magical remnant of the Dark Ages into pieces
smaller than its constituent atoms. "Actually, can we hold off on that? After I found out that
headline came from a girl a year younger than me, I had a different thought for my revenge."
"Huh? Do tell," Draco said, and started to take another swig of his ComedTea.
Harry didn't know if the enchantment worked more than once per can, but he did know he could
avoid the blame, so he was careful to time it exactly right:
"I was thinking someday I'm going to marry that woman."
Draco made a horrid sound and leaked green fluid out the corners of his mouth like a broken car
radiator. "Are you nuts? "
"Quite the opposite, I'm so sane it burns like ice."
"You've got weirder taste than a Lestrange," Draco said, sounding halfadmiring about it. "And I
suppose you want her all to yourself, huh?"
"Yep. I can owe you a favor for it "
Draco waved it off. "Nah, this one's free."
Harry stared down at the can in his hand, the coldness settling into his blood. Charming, happy,
generous with his favors to his friends, Draco wasn't a psychopath. That was the sad and awful
part, knowing human psychology well enough to know that Draco wasn't a monster. There had
been ten thousand societies over the history of the world where this conversation could have
happened. No, the world would have been a very different place indeed, if it took an evil mutant
to say what Draco had said. It was very simple, very human, it was the default if nothing else
intervened. To Draco, his enemies weren't people.
And in the slowed time of this slowed country, here and now as in the darknessbeforedawn
prior to the Age of Reason, the son of a sufficiently powerful noble would simply take for
granted that he was above the law, at least when it came to some peasant girl. There were places
in Muggleland where it was still the same way, countries where that sort of nobility still existed
and still thought like that, or even grimmer lands where it wasn't just the nobility. It was like that
in every place and time that didn't descend directly from the Enlightenment. A line of descent, it
seemed, which didn't quite include magical Britain, for all that there had been crosscultural
contamination of things like ringpull drinks cans.
And if Draco doesn't change his mind about wanting revenge, and I don't throw away my own
chance at happiness in life to marry some poor crazy girl, then all I've just bought is time, and
not too much of it...
For one girl. Not for others.
I wonder how difficult it would be to just make a list of all the top blood purists and kill them.
They'd tried exactly that during the French Revolution, more or less make a list of all the
enemies of Progress and remove everything above the neck and it hadn't worked out well from
what Harry recalled.
Harry gazed up at the sky, and at the pale shape of the Moon, visible this morning through the
So the world is broken and flawed and insane, and cruel and bloody and dark. This is news? You
always knew that, anyway...
"You're looking all serious," Draco said. "Let me guess, your Muggle parents told you that this
sort of thing was bad."
Harry nodded, not quite trusting his voice.
"Well, like Father says, there may be four houses, but in the end everyone belongs to either
Slytherin or Hufflepuff. And frankly, you're not on the Hufflepuff end. If you decide to side with
the Malfoys under the table... our power and your reputation... you could get away with things
even I can't do. Want to try it for a while? See what it's like?"
Aren't we a clever little serpent. Eleven years old and already coaxing your prey from hiding...
Harry thought, considered, chose his weapon. "Draco, you want to explain the whole blood
purity thing to me? I'm sort of new."
A wide smile crossed Draco's face. "You really should meet Father and ask him, you know, he's
"Give me the thirtysecond version."
"Okay," Draco said. He drew in a deep breath, and his voice grew slightly lower, and took on a
cadence. "Our powers have grown weaker, generation by generation, as the mudblood taint
increases. Where Salazar and Godric and Rowena and Helga once raised Hogwarts by their
power, creating the Locket and the Sword and the Diadem and the Cup, no wizard of these faded
days has risen to rival them. We are fading, all fading into Muggles as we interbreed with their
spawn and allow our Squibs to live. If the taint is not checked, soon our wands will break and all
our arts cease, the line of Merlin will end and the blood of Atlantis fail. Our children will be left
scratching at the dirt to survive like the mere Muggles, and darkness will cover all the world for
ever." Draco took another swig from his drinks can, looking satisfied; that seemed to be the
whole argument as far as he was concerned.
"Persuasive," Harry said, meaning it descriptively rather than normatively. It was a standard
pattern: The Fall from Grace, the need to guard what purity remained against contamination, the
past sloping upwards and the future sloping only down. And that pattern also had its counter... "I
have to correct you on one point of fact, though. Your information about the Muggles is a bit out
of date. We aren't exactly scratching at the dirt anymore."
Draco's head snapped around. "What? What do you mean, we? "
“We. The Muggles. We didn't just sit around crying about not having wands, we have our own
powers now, with or without magic. If all your powers fail then we will all have lost something
very precious, because your magic is the only hint we have as to how the universe must really
work but you won't be left scratching at the ground. Your houses will still be cool in summer
and warm in winter, there will still be doctors and medicine. It'd be a tragedy, but not literally the
end of all the light in the world. Just saying."
Draco had backed up several feet and his face was full of mixed fear and disbelief. "What in the
name of Merlin are you talking about, Potter? "
"Hey, I listened to your story, won't you listen to mine?" Clumsy, Harry chided himself, but
Draco actually did stop backing off and seem to listen.
"Anyway," Harry said, "I'm saying that you don't seem to have been paying much attention to
what goes on in the Muggle world." Probably because the whole wizarding world seemed to
regard the rest of Earth as a slum. "All right. Quick check. Have wizards ever been to the Moon?
You know, that thing?" Harry pointed up to that huge and distant globe.
"What? " Draco said. It was pretty clear the thought had never occurred to the boy. "Go to the
it's just a " His finger pointed at the little pale thingy in the sky. "You can't Apparate to
somewhere you've never been and how would anyone get to the Moon in the first place?"
"Hold on," Harry said to Draco, "I'd like to show you a book I brought with me.”
Harry pulled a book out of his pouch and turned the pages of the book until he found the picture
he wanted to show to Draco.
The one with the white, dry, cratered land, and the suited people, and the bluewhite globe
hanging over it all.
The picture, if only one picture in all the world were to survive.
"That," Harry said, his voice trembling because he couldn't quite keep the pride out, "is what the
Earth looks like from the Moon."
Draco slowly leaned over. There was a strange expression on his young face. "If that's a real
picture, why isn't it moving?"
Moving? Oh. "Muggles can do moving pictures but they need a bigger box to show it, they can't
fit them onto single book pages yet."
Draco's finger moved to one of the suits. "What are those?" His voice starting to waver.
"Those are human beings. They are wearing suits that cover their whole bodies to give them air,
because there is no air on the Moon."
"That's impossible," Draco whispered. There was terror in his eyes, and utter confusion. "No
Muggle could ever do that. How..."
Harry took back the book, flipped the pages until he found what he saw. "This is a rocket going
up. The fire pushes it higher and higher, until it gets to the Moon." Flipped pages again. "This is
a rocket on the ground. That tiny speck next to it is a person." Draco gasped. "Going to the Moon
cost the equivalent of... probably around a thousand million Galleons." Draco choked. "And it
took the efforts of... probably more people than live in all of magical Britain." And when they
arrived, they left a plaque that said, 'We came in peace, for all mankind.' Though you're not yet
ready to hear those words, Draco Malfoy...
"You're telling the truth," Draco said slowly. "You wouldn't fake a whole book just for this and
I can hear it in your voice. But... but..."
"How, without wands or magic? It's a long story, Draco. It doesn't work by waving wands and
chanting spells, it works by knowing how the universe works on such a deep level that you know
exactly what to do in order to make the universe do what you want. If magic is like casting
Imperio on someone to make them do what you want, then this is like knowing them so well that
you can convince them it was their own idea all along. It's a lot more difficult than waving a